Mo. AG secures restitution from alleged charity scheme

By Nick Rees | May 6, 2010


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline) - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has secured restitution and civil penalties totaling $544,933 from participants in a charity scam that allegedly pretended to aid veterans, firefighters and law enforcement officers.

Jeffery Duncan and Kathy Clinkenbeard, of Santa Ana, Calif., allegedly operated three sham nonprofit corporations - Coalition of Police and Sheriffs, Inc., Disabled Firefighters Funds, Inc., and American Veterans Relief Foundations, Inc., Koster said.

COPS purported to provide financial assistance to police officers and sheriffs' deputies who had been disabled while on duty and to families of officers and deputies killed in the line of duty, Koster said. The corporation also alleged to promote public awareness of the dangers facing law enforcement.

DFF claimed that it offered financial assistance to enhance disabled firefighters' quality of life as well as for families of firefighters who lost a spouse or parent in the line of duty, Koster said. The corporation also said it supported burn trauma centers and to provide grants to organizations furthering its goals, Koster said.

AVRF, it is alleged, served to identify and provide assistance to veterans who had fallen through the cracks. The company allegedly offered financial support to homeless veterans with nowhere else to turn and to homeless veterans' facilities. The company also misrepresented to donors that it provided financial support to veterans' memorials, Koster claims.

Duncan and Clinkenbeard hired Valerie Hellwege, a Missouri-based professional fundraiser, to solicit donations in Missouri on behalf of COPS, DFF and AVRF. Less than 5 percent of the donations solicited went to charitable programs, Koster alleged, while the remaining funds were funneled to Duncan, Clinkenbeard, Hellwege and the employees and contractors of the company.

"It's contemptible that people would take advantage of decent, charitable Missourians by promising to use their money help the brave people who keep us safe," Koster said. "This action should be a message to fraudulent charity fundraisers that we will not tolerate this behavior in Missouri."

In addition to the $544,933 in restitution and civil penalties, an order to permanently bar the defendants from soliciting in Missouri was also issued by the court.

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